Lockets have been around for as long as humans have been adorning themselves. They are small, intricate containers shaped like decorative items, worn by individuals to hold something valuable to them. Early versions date back to the Roman and Greek times. Lockets come in various forms, but the hinged pressed metal heart-shaped design became popular during the Victorian era due to advancements in manufacturing techniques, making them affordable and mass-produced. Owning and wearing a locket before this time was a symbol of wealth and social status. Typically, lockets were used as keepsakes for loved ones, such as children or romantic partners. While they were mainly worn by women on neck chains, there were less delicate versions that men could wear without drawing attention, or simply keep in their pockets.
For instance, soldiers at war would often use a locket to carry a picture of their wife or child, and there are even stories of lockets saving lives by stopping bullets. However, it’s important to note that lockets are not exclusive to the Victorian era, nor are they always made of pressed metal. In earlier times, they could be cast or crafted from wood, and instead of containing hair or a sweetheart’s portrait, they might hold holy relics. Priests, for example, used lockets to carry small amounts of sacraments for administering the last rites. Typically, these lockets were in the form of a small cylinder with a screw-top lid.
Lockets were manufactured by various factories in the Midlands, with mass-produced pressed metal ones being relatively inexpensive, making them accessible to ordinary working people. However, they were also often handcrafted by skilled artisans. While a mass-produced pressed metal locket could have originally cost a few pounds at most, jewellers like Faberge created unique examples that were extremely expensive. Today, lockets continue to be popular and can be worn in numerous ways, such as attached to chains, charm bracelets, belts, or kept in pockets or bags. They are available in a wide price range, starting from a few tens of pounds, making them an ideal gift for anyone.